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Pet behaviour counsellor

  • Hours

    Variable

  • Starting salary

    Variable

If you have experience of handling and training animals, and you can develop good working relationships with their owners, this could be the job for you.

Pet behaviour counsellors advise pet owners on dealing with general control issues and problematic behaviour with their pets.

In this job you will need to be a good communicator. You will need to be patient in your approach to your work. You will also need to be tactful when offering feedback to pet owners.

There are three main routes into this job: through a university course, working your way up through other animal care roles, and taking a course through a specialist organisation.



 

Work activities

Your work could involve dealing with animal behaviour problems like:

  • inappropriate noise, such as excessive barking
  • aggression towards people or animals
  • destructive behaviour
  • toileting issues
  • chasing livestock, cars or cyclists
  • phobias and fearful behaviours
  • general control
  • self-mutilation.

As a pet behaviour counsellor most of your work is likely to be with dogs or cats. Your tasks would include:

  • taking referrals from vets
  • holding consultations in your own centre, in veterinary surgeries or in owners' homes
  • talking to the owner and observe the animal to get details of the problem
  • analysing the nature of the problem and the likely causes
  • drawing up a behaviour-modification programme for the owner to follow
  • liaising with other animal related professionals
  • writing a report outlining the behaviour modification plan and sending a copy of the report to the pet owner and to the veterinary surgeon
  • keeping in touch with owners to check progress
  • adapting the modification programme if necessary.

Companion animal behaviourists are responsible for the health and safety of pets, owners, themselves and other people when handling animals and recommending treatment plans. This is important because some animals can be aggressive.

You might also offer an animal training service.

You are likely to be self-employed, organising your own tax and insurance, and doing all the administrative tasks involved in running a business.


Working hours and conditions

As you would usually be self-employed, you would decide your own working hours. However, you would need to fit in with clients' requirements, which could mean working evenings and weekends.

You could be based in your own premises, in veterinary surgeons' clinics or visit owners' homes. You may have to spend some time outside to observe animals.

Although the work is rewarding, it can also be stressful and upsetting. For example, some of the animals you come across may have problems which cannot be modified because they are too deep-seated or have a medical cause.

Most animal behaviourists spend some time travelling between clients or clinics. A driving licence may be useful.


Income

Pet behaviour counsellors are usually self-employed and charge for each consultation. Charges can range from £85 to over £250.

Total earnings vary depending on the size of the business. Counsellors typically supplement their income with related work like animal training or writing articles on animal behaviour.


Entry requirements

There is no single recognised entry route, but entrants can consider three main routes:

Related degree courses are offered by many higher education institutions and specialised training is completed after graduation. Entry to a degree course usually requires a minimum of two A levels (often including biology and/or other science subjects) and five GCSEs (A*-C), including English and maths, or equivalent qualifications.

Employment within the animal care industry, particularly the animal welfare sector, may offer opportunities for progression into specialised training related to animal behaviour and training.

The third option is a specialist course with one of the related organisations.

Whichever route is chosen all require extensive supervised training as well as a significant practical, hands-on experience of working with animals. Examples include working in kennels, a cattery, stables or a veterinary practice, or for one of the animal welfare societies.

Postgraduate courses usually require a first degree in a relevant subject, such as animal science, biology, zoology, veterinary science or psychology.

Animal behaviour courses vary considerably in content. Some deal only with companion animals, others also cover farm, laboratory or zoo animals. Courses tend to cover animal science (anatomy and physiology), health, psychology, behaviour, training and welfare.

Companion animal behaviourists continue learning throughout their career. They read research papers and journals, and attend seminars, workshops and conferences to keep up to date with the latest developments.

Knowledge and experience in working with dogs is important, as most of your work as a pet behaviour counsellor is likely to be with dogs.

Other relevant courses are listed on the following websites:

As well as learning the theory of animal behaviour, it is essential to have practical experience of working with animals. This could come from paid work, such as dog training or handling, or voluntary experience, for example in a kennels or veterinary surgery, or with an animal welfare organisation.

You can find out about opportunities for volunteering in your area from:

As an animal welfare assistant in a Blue Cross adoption centre, you may be able to train as an animal behaviour adviser, giving advice on minor problems.


Training and development

Throughout your career, you will need to keep your skills and knowledge up to date, for example by attending workshops, seminars and conferences, and reading professional journals.

You can join the APBC and the CFBA at various levels depending on your qualifications and experience - see the APBC and CFBA websites for details.

If you have completed an Honours or higher degree in a relevant subject, appropriate specialist courses, and at least three years of clinical experience working with the behaviour disorders of dogs, cats and other animals, you can gain certification from the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour (ASAB). See the ASAB website for the requirements for certification.

You could complete a postgraduate qualification such as a relevant MSc, or a PhD if you are interested in moving into research. See the Postgrad website for postgraduate courses.


Skills, interests and qualities

To be a pet behaviour counsellor you should have:

  • animal-handling skills and experience
  • knowledge of dog training
  • good spoken and written communication skills
  • the ability to empathise with clients and gain their trust
  • patience
  • the ability to motivate pet owners
  • a tactful approach when offering advice
  • awareness of animal welfare legislation
  • the ability to keep records and accounts
  • have good coaching skills
  • awareness of your own limitations and the importance of involving other animal-related professionals when required
  • commitment to on-going professional learning and development.

More information

Cambridge Institute of Dog Behaviour and Training (CIDBT) (Opens new window)
www.cidbt.org.uk

Canine and Feline Behaviour Association (CFBA) (Opens new window)
www.cfba.co.uk

Pet Education, Behaviour and Training Council (Opens new window)
www.petbc.org.uk

Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour (Opens new window)
asab.nottingham.ac.uk

Animal Behaviour and Training Council (Opens new window)
Blakeney Chambers
8-9 Saville Row
Newcastle Upon Tyne
NE1 8JE
www.abtcouncil.org.uk

Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (APBC)
PO BOX 46
Worcester
WR8 9YS
England
Tel: 01386 751151
www.apbc.org.uk


 

Opportunities

You would usually be self-employed or work in a private consulting firm, although you may find employment with an animal welfare charity such as Blue Cross, which runs an animal behaviour service.

You may find the following link useful for job vacancies and general reading:



Job market information

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The 'Market statistics' charts are based on figures from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) and the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The list of job vacancies under 'Apply for jobs' is from the Universal Jobmatch database. The vacancies are not from the National Careers Service.


Median income: Healthcare
Avg Inc
UK Sector
27017 33884
Gender: Healthcare
Percentages
Female Male
76 24
Working pattern: Healthcare
Percentages
Part-time Full-time Self-employed
31 54 15
Gaps in sector due to skills shortages: Healthcare
Percentages
This sector All vacancies
33 23
Employment forecast: Healthcare
Forecast Employment Figures
Year Predicted nos. employed
2014 1178000
2015 1197000
2016 1202000
2017 1219000
2018 1251000
2019 1272000
2020 1291000

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